Saturday, December 29, 2012

He can't stop lying






December 28, 2012
Threat information indicates that terrorist elements may target U.S. interests in Baghdad, including the United States Embassy, as well as churches in Baghdad and Kirkuk, on or around December 31, 2012.  The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad urges U.S. citizens in Iraq to exercise caution and to refer to the current travel warning on our website.
We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Iraq enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at www.Travel.State.Gov.  STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency.  If you don't have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. 
Regularly monitor the State Department's website, where you can find current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution.  Read the Country Specific Information for Iraq.  For additional information, refer to "A Safe Trip Abroad" on the State Department's website.
Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate for up-to-date information on travel restrictions.  You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and download our free Smart Traveler iPhone App to have travel information at your fingertips.
It's a sign of how much turmoil there is in Iraq currently that it was little noted in the western coverage of Iraq today.  This was the day dubbed "Friday of Honor" with plans for large protests in Iraq.  Question: If you're the government and you don't want people to know about the protests, what might you do?  Hmmm. . . .
Been waiting 3+ hours at Anbar checkpoint with other media to cover Friday anti-govt demo. Go-ahead mysteriously not coming - I wonder why.
Just a second, Prashant!  You are Nouri al-Maliki and you don't want the protests to get attention, what could you do?  How could you prevent attention to the protests?  Maybe --
4.5 hours at checkpoint with other media - Anbar protests at Friday prayers have begun, reports of massive crowds. Army keeping us here.
Prashant Rao of AFP, we are trying to think right now.  Okay, so protests are taking place and Iraq's a failed state and you just made a new corruption list and, as Al Mada reports, Baghdad's just been named the worst place to live in the world by the Mercer Consulting Group.  The rains are coming down hard and, as Dar Addustour notes, Baghdad's sunk by rainwater.  You're Nouri al-Maliki and you don't want the word getting out about these protests so --
5+ hours at Anbar checkpoint + army take IDs + told "authorisation" coming only after mid-day prayer = unable to cover Friday demo in #Iraq
Oh my goodness, Prashant Rao, you are 100% correct.  If the government doesn't want word of the protests out, the easiest way is to refuse to allow journalists close enough to the protests to cover them.  BBC News observes:
Some journalists attempting to reach the city were held at an army checkpoint some 50km east of Ramadi for six hours, and were unable to cover the demonstration, says the BBC's Rami Ruhayem who was at the scene.
The government has succeeded in keeping the protests out of the public eye to an extent, says our correspondent, but in the process has revealed how nervous it is over this latest challenge to its authority.
Army units did, however, bar Baghdad-based journalists from entering Anbar province, holding teams from AFP and other media at a checkpoint between Baghdad and Ramadi for more than five hours.
They also confiscated their press badges, promising to return them only if they turned back to Baghdad.
A senior security official said that there were "strong preventative measures to protect the demonstrators", but journalists witnessed dozens of cars pass through the checkpoint where they were held with no questioning whatsoever.
As the Washington Post's Liz Sly Tweeted:
Democracy in Iraq MT @prashantrao: 4.5 hours at checkpoint w media-Anbar protests have begun, reports of big crowds. Army keeping us here.
'Democracy in Iraq' indeed. 
Morning Star notes, "Protesters took to the streets after Friday prayers for the sixth day of protests calling for Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down and for the release of Sunni prisoners."  Al Arabiya notes that the protesters had support from Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr, "In a letter by Sadr sent to the tribal sheikhs, the Islamist leader said that he supports their protests against Maliki and their effort to hold unity and thwart sectarianism.Deutsche Welle quotes Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki whining today, "It is not acceptable to express something by blocking roads, inciting sedition and sectarianism, killing, or blowing the trumpet of war and dividing Iraq."  Sign of a true despot, civil disobdience is likened to "killing."  Because it is a 'killing,' it's a killing of his crafted image, it's an exposure of his failure as a leader.   Ken Hanly (Digital Journal) observes of the slogan at many of the protests across Iraq "The people want to bring down the regime," "This is the slogan protesters used in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere during the Arab Spring."

Kitabat reports that "millions" came out to protest in Anbar Province today.  Their photo of Falluja shows the large crowd with banners, flags and a huge photo of Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi (last week, Nouri al-Maliki ordered the arrest of 150 staff and bodyguards working for al-Issawi -- 10 have been charged with 'terrorism' and 50 have been released, this was seen as politically motivated).  The Falluja protesters demanded that innocent people be released from detention and end to the 'terror' arrests, an end to politicizing the Iraqi military, that Nouri turn over the soldier who raped the girl in Mosul and more.  They chanted for unity and for an end to sectarianism and Nouri's abusive government. Kamal Naama and Raheem Salman (Reuters) add, "Around 60,000 people blocked the main road through Falluja, 50 km (30 miles) west of the capital, setting fire to the flag of Shi'ite Iran and shouting 'out, out Iran! Baghdad stays free' and 'Maliki you coward, don't take your advice from Iran'."  AP goes with the more conservative crowd estimate of "tens of thousands" of people protesting.  For a good photo from AP of the Falluja crowd, click here (photographer is Karim Kadim).  Omar al-Saleh reported for today's Inside Story (Al Jazeera -- link is text and video):
Omar al-Saleh:  A show of support in Ramadi and Falluja for Iraqi Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi.  During it's biggest rally in days in Anbar Province, local leaders have called for civil disobedience and thousands have blocked the highway linking Iraq to Jordan and Syria.  They are demanding the release of 9 bodyguards of the finance minister who were arrested on Thursday [of last week].  But Rafia al-Issawi addressed the crowd saying the issue now was bigger than his bodyguards.
Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi:  This crowd is not political or sectarian.  But it represents all Iraqis who came to denounce the injustice and marginalization.  When we say the injustice has happened against Sunni Arabs, that doesn't mean that we want to take the country to a civil war.
Omar al-Saleh: The protesters urged the Shi'ite-led government to stop its sectarian approach and marginalization of Sunnis and their leaders but the government continues to deny the accusation.  Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says the issue of the bodyguards is judicial and the role of the state is to pursue wanted terrorists and not to support them.  Many feel the crisis may escalate.
Political Analyst Watheq Alshashimi:  The situation in Iraq may take a dangerous direction as elections approach.  What politicians are doing is polarizing their supporters ethnically and based on sectarian  affiliatons.  What's happening in Anbar  can escalate and may lead to more pressure on the prime minister.
Omar al-Saleh: But other Sunni leaders accuse the president of trying to consolidate his grip on power and target his political rivals.  Tareq al-Hashemi, Iraq's fugitive Vice President, has been sentence to death in absentia for terrorism charges.  He says the prime minister is adopting sectarian policies.  Adding to Iraq's political turmoil is the looming confrontation between the Iraqi army and forces from the semi-autonomous Kurdish north. 
We are only noting the report from that broadcasting.  We are not noting -- on the advice of a former Al Jazeera producer -- the 'discussion.'  I called him to ask what the hell was going on when this discussion was planned?  State of Law is invited on and goes on to trash Iraqiya -- Iraqiya has no one on to represent them.  No one to challenge the lies of State of Law?  We're not interested in that nonsense but we do get why Al Jazeera had to kill Inside Iraq -- they killed that program -- because the presenter wouldn't slant it towards Nouri al-Maliki.  Even when they pulled him off air as a threat, he refused to slant the program.  He played it fair, inviting all segments of Iraq onto his show.  And Al Jazeera had a problem with that.  Which is why his program is no longer on.  We're noting the report, we're not noting a fixed discussion that was fixed before a 'dialogue' even began. 
As noted earlier, Prashant Rao and other journalists were prevented from entering to observe the Falluja protests; however, they were not the only ones blocked from entering the province.  Aswat al-Iraq notes, "Police sources said here today that the army forces prevented Iraqi delegations from other provinces from entering to participate in Fallujah sit-in on the international highway."   Al Jazeera (link has video) also goes with "thousands:"

Massive demonstrations took place along a major highway near the city of Fallujah on Friday, a day after thousands of protesters continued an almost week-long blockade on a key highway in the western Anbar province. 
Protests erupted last week after Iraqi authorities detained 10 bodyguards of the finance minister, who is from Anbar and is one of the government's most senior Sunni officials.
Many Sunnis accuse Maliki of marginalising the country's religious minority group by refusing to share power and depriving them of equal rights.

Alsumaria notes "hundreds" protested in Mosul at noon and their demands were similar with the addition of they called for the execution of the soldier who raped the young girl.  All Iraq News adds that the protesters called for all charges against al-Issawi's bodyguards to be dropped.  Alsumaria notes that Samarra saw thousands turn out and their calls were similar but they also want the long promised amnesty law implemented and they want the Justice and Accountability Commission dissolved (the Commission was used most infamously in the 2010 elections to disqualify various Sunnis from running for office -- that includes the current Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq).  AP adds that protests took place today in Tikrit as well.  BBC News notes a Ramadi protest and that held "a mock funeral for the Iraqi judiciary."

Bill Van Auken (WSWS) observes:

The protests began last week after troops detained bodyguards and aides of Finance Minister Rafie al-Essawi, while searching his home and offices on December 20. The government has claimed that it arrested only ten of the minister's bodyguards on charges of "terrorism." But Essawi, a member of the secular, Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, charged that over 100 people connected to his staff were rounded up by what he said was a "militia force" controlled by Maliki's supporters.
It appears that the discrepancy arises from the fact that only the bodyguards were subjected to formal arrest, while the others were essentially subjected to extra-legal detention and interrogation.
Addressing Maliki in a statement to the Iraqi media, Essawi stated, "You are a man who does not respect partnership at all, a man who does not respect the law and the constitution, and I personally hold you fully responsible for the safety of the kidnapped people."
The finance minister told Associated Press that Maliki was deliberately seeking to stoke sectarian conflicts between the Sunni and Shia populations. "These practices are aimed at drawing the country into a sectarian conflict again by creating crisis and targeting prominent national figures," he said.
The incident was essentially a replay of a similar crackdown carried out a year ago, on December 19, 2011, the day after the last US troops ended the more than eight-year American occupation of Iraq. Then the target was Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, also a Sunni member of the Iraqiya bloc.
While the protests took place, Nouri attempted to distract by giving a speech.  Alsumaria notes he was forced to admit that the budget for 2013 (that should be Fiscal Year 2013 unless something's changed) did not and would not improve the problems facing Iraqi citizens.  For those who may have stepped out of the main room for a moment, that is no longer just the lack of basic services like electricity, potable water, trash pick up, etc.  No, add flooding to the list as Iraq -- especially Baghdad -- finds itself flooded as a result of Nouri's refusal for the last six years to spend money on the infrastructure.  Home are collapsing, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society evacuated one village this month (the village is in Wasit Province -- see Wednesday's snapshot). But Nouri says these problems will not be addressed in the budget.   Karafillis Giannoulis (New Europe) notes of Nouri's speech broadcast on Iraqi TV, "At a conference in Baghdad, al-Maliki stressed that current tension can cause a return to the 'dark days when people were killed because of their names or identities.' For that reason Prime Minister of Iraq asked by the demonstrators to stop protesting and promote dialogue instead."  Why does that sound like a threat?  These protests can cause "dark days" to come back "when people were killed because of their names or identities"?  Maybe because those dark days occurred most recently in Iraq during Nouri's first term as prime minister and the Sunnis were the ones targeted by Nouri's Ministry of the Interior forces?  Maybe because that period of ethnic cleansing was overseen by Nouri?  As the editorial board of Gulf News points out, "The sectarian drift of the Iraqi government, headed by Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, needs to be reversed. Al Maliki is a leading Shiite politician, but in his position as the head of a government, he needs to serve the entire Iraqi population and his government must work to be inclusive of all Iraqis — be they Shiite or Sunni; Kurdish or Turk; Christian or Muslim. "

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"Got his mind on his man"

Friday, December 28, 2012

Got his mind on his man






"I should have seen the s**t coming down the hall," sings Greg Dulli on the Afghan Whig's "When We Two Parted" (New Year's Eve, the Whigs will be rocking it at Bogart's in Cincinnati). When it comes to Thomas E. Ricks, most of us did.  It was only a matter of time before he turned on Emma Sky and, today, at Foreign Policy he does.  We're aganostic on Emma but we can enjoy the implosion as Ricks argues Sky is wrong (and the subtext is Tommy Loves David Petraeus best so he turns on Emma and her US military patron Gen Ray Odierno).  While chuckling over the dynamics and drama Thomas E. Ricks churns out, we're also left with this 'stellar' advice:
If anything could be recommended at this point, it would be for the Obama Administration to abandon the unwanted meddling in Iraqi police affairs and ineffective training, and to openly and effectively engage that broad Iraqi public through positive political focus on the "plain vanilla" operations of civil government systems and technical advice, which the United States has an abundance of and the Iraqi public seriously needs.
Iraq is a failed-state.  You realize too late that Thomas E. Ricks is not only a War Hawk but also completely ignorant.  You realize what you always feared: Thomas dabbles.  The police program has been greatly scaled back and that happened long ago -- and rather publicly even in the US press.  Iraq does not move forward under Nouri.
At some point, the US government is going to have to grasp what various NGOs already have.  But there's Thomas Ricks, who should know better, talking about actions that transfer technology to a despot.  In doing so, they alarm the Kurds and the Sunnis and make Iraq even less stable.
Poor Thomas E. Ricks.  When he died as a reporter, he was reborn as the chief sales person for the munitions industry.
As he calls for 'technology' to be shared, it's worth noting Monday's Defense Security Cooperation Agency's press release:
WASHINGTON, December 24, 2012 -- The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress Dec. 21 of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Iraq for Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) operations and maintenance services and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $125 million.
The Government of Iraq has requested a possible sale of Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) operations and maintenance services, equipment installation services, upgrade VSAT managed and leased bandwith, video teleconferencing equipment, 75 VSAT Equipment Suites (consisting of 1.8m VSAT terminals, block up covnerters (BUCs), low-noise down converters (LNBs), required cables and components, iDirect e8350 modem, network operation and dynamic bandwidth equipment, and iMonitor softward), spares and repair parts, tools, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, U.S. Government and contractor representative technical support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support.  The estimated cost is $125 million.
This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country.  This proposed sale directly supports the Iraqi government and serves the interests of the Iraqi people and the United States.
This proposed sale will continue U.S. support to the development of Iraqi Defense Network (IDN) VSAT terminals.  Iraq intends to use these defense articles and services to provide command and control for its armed forces.  The purchase of this equipment will enhance the Iraqi military's foundational capabilities, making it a more valuable partner in an important area of the world and supporting its legitimate needs for its own self-defense. 
The proposed sale of this support and services will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
The principal contractors will be 3Di Technologies and L-3 Communications Company in Hanover, Maryland. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
Implementation of this proposed sale will require U.S. Government or contractor representatives to travel to Iraq for delivery of operations and maintenance services, installation of new sites for each year of required operations and maintenance services, and field services to install and move VSAT sites and training for a period of one year.
There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.
This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.
Let's look at the two claims in the press release:
1) The purchase of this equipment will enhance the Iraqi military's foundational capabilities, making it a more valuable partner in an important area of the world and supporting its legitimate needs for its own self-defense.  The proposed sale of this support and services will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
2) This proposed sale directly supports the Iraqi government and serves the interests of the Iraqi people and the United States.
With regards to one, how is Iraq's military foundational capabilities increased without    "alter[ing] the basic military balance in the region"?  And since Nouri al-Maliki's own State of Law can't go a month without proclaiming that some segment of Iraqi military is plotting to overthrow al-Maliki, how is it in the interests of the region to arm Iraq?
Even more importantly, who are these weapons to be used on?  Not only is there a valid concern that Nouri will use weapons on the Iraqi people, there is Nouri's notorious paranoia.  Do you put a loaded gun into the hand of the crazy person ranting on the street about how people are out to get him? 
With regards to the second assertion -- there's no way this helps the US and it's even more difficult to see how this $125 million purchase  helps the Iraqi people.
David Romano (Rudaw) observes that $6 billion was the annual budget for Iraq from 1997 to 2003 and the people were provided with food, with electricity, with basic public services.  Now?
Today's Iraq enjoy an unimaginably higher budget.  Oil revenues bring in some one hundred billion dollars a year.  One would think that with such vast sums of wealth, the country would enjoy spectacular increases in standards of living. Instead, garbage lies uncollected on street corner after street corner, with little children playing in disease-ridden alleyways.  Security remains elsuive as kidnappings, mafia shakedowns and political assassinations cast a shadow across entire communities.  Baghdad and other cities still lack electricity, with noisy portable generators rumbling through the night and spewing their pollution across entire neighborhoods.  Some twenty-five billion dollars "spent" on restoring the country's electrical grid seems to have produced little tangible results, possibly because the business interests who rent generators don't want the electric grid restored. 
Explain to me again how the Iraqi people are helped by this $125 million weapons contract?  Today, Alsumaria reports 4 deaths -- including two sisters, one 12 and one 18.  From Wednesday's snapshot:

Alsumaria notes yesterday's rains have caused 3 deaths and two people to be injured in Baghdad -- two deaths from a house collapsing due to the rain and one from electrical death (with two more injured in that as well) and that main streets in the capital are sinking.  All Iraq News notes Baghdad has been placed on high alert because of the torrential rains.
You could mistake Baghdad for Venice in
this All Iraq News photo essay which notes that students are forced to walk through the high standing water to get to schools.   They also note of Tuesday's rainfall:  Baghdad had the most yesterday (67 mm) followed by Hilla, Azizia and Karbala (rainfall was also recorded in Samawa, Rifai and Basra -- of those three, Basra was the highest and Baghdad's rainfall was three times Basra's).   It's not just Baghdad.  Alsumaria notes that after ten house[s] collapse[d] in Wasit Province village, the Iraqi Red Crescent began evacuating the entire village.
Al Mada notes today that Iraqis who might plan to travel Italy no longer need visit Venice to see streets of water, they just need to step outside their homes and they can take in the beauty of water surrounding houses, riding  a car through the Sadr section of Baghdad can be like a gondala ride in Venice. 
As Iraq crumbles, Nouri's spending $125 million on a weapons program (which will allow him to track Iraqis via satellite)?  This helps the Iraqi people how?
There is no ethical justification for the US government to allow this sale.  Greed isn't ethical but they could be honest and admit that greed is why they'll gladly grab $125 million that should instead be spent improving the lives of the Iraqi people.  "Greed" would be a honest reason for the deal.  Again, not an ethical reason, but an honest one.
Reuters reports that protests continued today in Iraq with the highway to Jordan and Syria being blocked "for a fifth day" and that along with the protest in Ramadi, there was also a protest in Mosul.  Earlier today, Alsumaria reported that a protest has been called for Friday (Moqtada al-Sadr has added his endorsement) and the focus of the protest will be women prisoners.  This has been building for some time with the treatment of women in Iraqi prisons and detention centers been a focal point for weeks now with allegations of rape and torture.  Kitabat notes that calls for the women prisoners to be released were frequent at most of this week's rallies.  Alsumaria notes that Moqtada al-Sadr told the network through his spokesperson (Salah al-Obeidi) that he regrets statements at demonstrations that go to sectarianism and against the Iraqi national identity and he stated he stands with the calls the protesters are making.

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"They allow it"

Thursday, December 27, 2012

They allow it







Kamal Namaa and Raheem Salman (Reuters) report, "Tens of thousands of Sunni Muslims blocked Iraq's main trade route to neighboring Syria and Jordan in a fourth day of demonstrations on Wednesday against Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki."  Is this about Nouri's refusal to implement the Erbil Agreement?  Is it about his refusal to maintain a power-sharing government?  His inability to follow the Constitution and nominate people to the posts of Minister of Defense, Minister of National Security and Minister of Interior?  Is it about the corrupt arms deal with Russia? 
No, all of those problems already existed.  As Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) has pointed out, Nouri loves to create new crises in order to distract from his inability to govern and to meet the basic needs of the Iraqi people.  This crisis was created last week.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported:

Iraq's Finance Minister Rafei al-Essawi said Thursday that "a militia force" raided his house, headquarters and ministry in Baghdad and kidnapped 150 people, and he holds the nation's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, responsible for their safety.
 Members of the al-Essawi's staff and guards were among those kidnapped from the ministry Thursday, the finance minister said. He also said that his computers and documents were searched at his house and headquarters. He said the head of security was arrested Wednesday at a Baghdad checkpoint for unknown reasons and that now the compound has no security.
That was Thursday evening.  The response was immediate.  From Friday's snapshot:

After morning prayers, Kitabat reports, protesters gathered in Falluja to protest the arrests and Nouri al-Maliki.  They chanted down with Nouri's brutality and, in a move that won't change their minds, found themselves descended upon by Nouri's forces who violently ended the protest.  Before that, Al Mada reports, they were chanting that terrorism and Nouri are two sides of the same coin.  Kitabat also reports that demonstrations also took place in Tikrit, Samarra, Ramdia and just outside Falluja with persons from various tribes choosing to block the road connecting Anbar Province (Falluja is the capitol of Anbar) with Baghdad.  Across Iraq, there were calls for Nouri to release the bodyguards of Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi.  Alsumaria notes demonstrators in Samarra accused Nouri of attempting to start a sectarian war.
Sunday saw protests in Falluja, Ramadi and al-Qaim:
AP notes of today's protest in Falluja, "In al-Issawi's hometown of Fallujah, some demonstrators covering their faces with red-checkered traditional tribal headdress carried pistols under their clothes. Others held flags from the era of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein and those now being raised by Syrian anti-government rebels."  AP has a slide show here.   On the Ramadi protest, Ammon News adds, :"Around 2,000 protestors blocked a main highway leading to Syria and Jordan in Ramadi in western Iraq on Sunday."  AFP notes that Ramadi protestors were composed of many different sections, "including local officials, religious and tribal leaders."  Aswat al-Iraq notes that both protests resulted in armed guards in heavy numbers being sent to 'observe' the protests.
And now today.    Alumaria reports that in Ramadi today, tens of thousands demonstrated.  It's being called "Dignity Day" and "Wednesday Dignity." And, AFP explains, the protests managed to close down "the main road to Syria and Jordan."  They also note that Minister of Finance al-Essawi was present at the protest in Ramadi "and pledged to take a representative of the protesters 'to negotiate with Baghdad'."  Adam Schreck and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) add, "He appeared before Wednesday's rally and was held aloft by the crowds."  AFP notes that some demonstrators made clear that negotiations were not enough and chanted, "We only want a revolution."

Read more here:
Alsumaria notes that security forces were out in full force but states it was to protect those demonstrating.  There is a good picture of the crowd here but an even better one here.  This is seen as another attack by Nouri on Iraqiya (which came in first in the 2010 parliamentary elections while Nouri's State of Law came in second) and as an attack on Sunnis -- Rafaie al-Issawi is both Sunni and a member of Iraqiya.  Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) provides this perspective, "Many Sunnis see the arrest of the finance minister's guards as the latest in a series of moves by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki against their sect and other perceived political opponents. Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, one of the country's highest-ranking Sunni politicians, is now living in exile in Turkey after being handed multiple death sentences for allegedly running death squads - a charge he dismisses as politically motivated."  Al Jazeera notes that Tareq sees similiarites and that they spoke with the Vice President on Monday and he declared, "On the ground, al-Maliki in fact, on a daily basis [is governing in a] sectarian way.  We don't have any option but to advocate and defend ourselves."
 Alsumaria notes the demands included calling for the release of al-Issawi's staff and correct the course Nouri is currently on.
There are so many corrections that need to be made with regards to how Nouri is doing things.   The Washington Post's Liz Sly Tweeted today:
Nouri can't protect Iraqis from attacks and now he can't even protect them from the elements.   All Iraq News notes that Baghdad is receiving the most rainfall it's seen in thirty years. Alsumaria adds that the last days alone have seen the amount of rainfall Baghdad usually receives in a full year (note the picture of the three men walking down the street with water up to their knees). Kitabat notes that the rain is destroying the infrastructure (check out the photo of the man who's apparently  trying to get home with bags of groceries).

This is not just due to rainfall.  This is also the result of Iraq's crumbling infrastructure -- infrastructure Nouri al-Maliki has had six years to address and he's done nothing.   When you allow the sewage and drainage systems to crumble, you get standing water.   AP speaks with various residents with complaints including that the flooding has left them with no electricity and Abu Ibrahim states, "The heavy rain and lack of services the muncipality of Baghdad should provide to citizens led to this catastrophe.  No good sewage, no drainage caused this bad situation."  AFP points out, "The heavy rain spurred the government to declare Wednesday a national holiday, the fourth time this year it has been forced to do so because of bad weather. The other three were due to heat during Iraq's boiling summer."

Alsumaria notes yesterday's rains have caused 3 deaths and two people to be injured in Baghdad -- two deaths from a house collapsing due to the rain and one from electrical death (with two more injured in that as well) and that main streets in the capital are sinking.  All Iraq News notes Baghdad has been placed on high alert because of the torrential rains.

You could mistake Baghdad for Venice in this All Iraq News photo essay which notes that students are forced to walk through the high standing water to get to schools.   They also note of Tuesday's rainfall:  Baghdad had the most yesterday (67 mm) followed by Hilla, Azizia and Karbala (rainfall was also recorded in Samawa, Rifai and Basra -- of those three, Basra was the highest and Baghdad's rainfall was three times Basra's).   It's not just Baghdad.  Alsumaria notes that after ten house collapses in Wasit Province village, the Iraqi Red Crescent began evacuating the entire village. Dar Addustour notes Nouri issued a statement yesterday that he's going to oversee a committee that will try to address the situation.

Now he's doing that? Dropping back to the November 21st snapshot:
In Iraq, the rains have been falling with significant consequences.  Tuesday, All Iraq News reported that the rest of the week would be rainy and foggy.  And Iraq had already seen heavy rain fall.  Sadr City was one of the areas effected.   Joseph Muhammadwi and Mahmoud Raouf (Al Mada) reported on the flooding of Sadr City and included a photo of the water up to the frame of a mini-van. Despite the flooding and continuing heavy rains, traffic police stand outside directing vehicles. One resident jokes that Nouri can replace the food-ration cards with free small boats.  The water's flooded the streets and also gone into homes and schools and a makeshift bridge of bricks has been constructed to allow access to one school.  Dar Addustour noted that many of the cities, such as Kut, have been hit with the heavy rains.  Baghdad residents protested the lack of public services -- proper sanitation (i.e. drainage) would alleviate a great deal of the standing water. Nouri's had six years to address Baghdad's sewer system and done nothing.  AFP reports today the heavy rains in Kut led to houses collapsing resulting in the death of six children and leaving one adult male injured.
But now, a month later, Nouri is going to deal with the problem?

That crisis is only one of the many problems Nouri is currently facing.  October 9th, Nouri was strutting across the world stage as he inked a $4.2 billion weapons deal with Russia. The deal is now iffy if not off (an Iraqi delegation went to Russia  at the start of the month to see if the deal could be salvaged) and it went down in charges of corruption. Among those said to be implicated in the corruption is Nouri's own son. All Iraq News reports that State of Law is attempting to remove Nouri's name from the list of those Parliament is investigating for the corruption in that deal.  In addition, Al Mada reports that Nouri is refusing to answer questions from the Parliament relating to that arms deal.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Cabal behind Chuckie Cheese Hagel









Tom Spender (Voice of Russia -- link is text and audio) reports England's "Ministry of Defence has paid out a total of 14 million pounds to Iraqis who say they were tortured by British troops during the UK's five-year occupation of southern Iraq.  The Mod says the vast majority of British troops in Iraq behaved with integrity and professionalism."  The most infamous Iraqi torture victim of British troops was Baha Mousa.  From the July 13, 2009 snapshot:

Moving over to England, Matthew Weaver (Guardian) notes that Iraqi Baha Mousa's death at the age of 26 while in British custody in September 2003 is the subject of a public inquiry in England which began today and that, "A central issue of the inquiry is why five 'conditioning techniques' -- hooding prisoners, putting them in stress positions, depriving them of sleep, depriving them of food and water, and playing white noise -- were used on Iraq detainees.  The techniques, inflicted on IRA suspects, were banned in 1972 by then prime minister, Edward Heath."  The Telegraph of London offers that Baha "was beaten to death" while in British custody, "sustaining 93 separate injuires, including fractured ribs and a broken nose."  The Telegraph also notes that the inquiry was shown video of Corporal Donald Payne yelling and screaming, "shouting and swearing at the Iraqis as they are force to main painful 'stress position'."
The inquiry, like so many others, didn't offer much.  However, in June of this year, ITV reported that the doctor on dusty, the one who examined Baha, Dr. Derek Keilloh, was facing charges that he had "failed to conduct an adequate examination of Mr Mousa's body after death and failed to notify a superior office of the circumstances of his death.  He faces similar claims relating to two other detainees he examiend after Mr Mousa's death."  From last Monday's snapshot:
Today, Andrew Johnson (Belfast Telegraph) reports the latest, "A former British Army doctor has been found guilty of attempting to cover up the death of an Iraqi civilian who was fatally beaten by British troops in 2003, and of failing to protect other detainees."  Peter Magill (Lancashire Telegraph) notes of the Baha Mousa inquiry,  "Another detainee, Ahmed Al Matari, who had also been seen by Dr Keilloh at the detention centre after being kicked in the kidneys and legs, accused him of behaving like a 'criminal' during."  Press TV adds, "Britain's Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service will now decide what penalty the British doctor will face.The editorial board of Scotland's Herald weighs in, "Army medics cannot afford to be squeamish but ignoring such brutality amounts to a betrayal of all the servicemen and women who behave decently and within the rules. It also acts as a recruiting sergeant for extremism and destroys at a stroke any goodwill built up with the local population. It is shameful that it has taken so long to uncover the truth. Though maltreatment of detainees may not have been routine, the fact that a number of other such inquiries are still crawling through the system suggests this was more than the work of a 'few bad apples'."
Yesterday, Ashleigh Barbour (Press and Journal) reported Dr. Derek Keilloh had been "struck off the medical register."  The Yorkshire Post adds, "The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service announced its decision to ban Dr Keilloh from working as a doctor yesterday after finding him guilty of misconduct." The Herald Scotland explained, "The MPTS recognised Dr Keilloh, now a GP at Mayford House Surgery in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, never harmed Mr Mousa and did everything possible to save his life, in a setting that was 'highly charged, chaotic, tense and stressful'. But they ruled he must have seen the injuries and, especially as a doctor, had a duty to act."  Mary Gearin (Australia's ABC) quotes MPTS Chair Brian Alderman telling Keilloh, "The panel determined that erasure is the only appropriate sanction in this case.  Given the gravity and nature of the extent and context of your dishonesty, it considers that your misconduct is fundamentally incompatible with continued registration."
On the payouts by the UK government to Iraqi victims of torture, Melissa Stusinski (Inquisitr) notes, "The Ministry of Defense has promised it will launch an investigation for every abuse allegation that is brought forward."  Lutz Oette (Guardian) feels the only way to deal with torture is a public inquiry:
This compensation leaves a sour taste: although it is an important measure of redress for victims, it is certainly not justice done. The full truth of what happened is yet to emerge, and those responsible have not been held to account. There is still no sign that the government is prepared to do the right thing and establish a full independent public inquiry into torture and ill-treatment by members of the British armed forces in Iraq from 2003 to 2008.
This failure is part of a clear pattern. When allegations of abuse are made they are first downplayed -- any wrongdoing, we are told, is down to a "few rotten apples" -- then, if any investigations do follow, they are carried out within existing military structures. This "trust us, we will deal with it" approach has long since lost credibility; as for rotten apples, the numbers of victims are too large and the patterns of abuse too similar to speak of exceptions.
On the topic of torture, director Kathryn Bigelow is in the crosshairs of many for her film Zero Dark Thirty.  What's that?  You haven't seen it?  Oh, don't let that stop you from weighing in, it hasn't stopped any of the pigs from weighing in.  Ava and I covered it in "Media: The allure of Bash The Bitch" at Third and Third also wrote "Can't do their jobs, so they blame a film."
Before we get to that second piece, Glenn Greenwald felt so 'validated' this weekend when he appeared on Chris Hayes' MSNBC program and the two of them got to bash the Bigelow.  I like Chris.  If Chris gives you his word, he keeps it.  I have negatively criticized Chris for only one thing since Winter Soldier but it's not a minor thing. 
Back in 2010, Ava and I called out Chris for the fact that he was covering the White House for The Nation magazine.  That was an ethical no-no.  Not a minor one, a major one.  Chris is married.   His wife is an assistant attorney in the Office of Special Council.  Due to that, he shouldn't be covering the White House.  Whether or not he can be objective and fair, it creates the impression of a conflict of interests and journalists are supposed to avoid not just a conflict but the appearance of one.  His wife was not working in that department under Bully Boy Bush but that is where many of the torture memos orignated.  She works there now.  There has been no effort to punish any former officials, especially not those working for that legal office out of the White House (one that Bruce Ackerman argued at Slate should be abolished).
Chris Hayes is a nice person.  But maybe part of being a nice person is running interference for his wife?  Maybe if his wife's department isn't doing their job -- and clearly, they are not -- it's a lot easier to glom on and attack a film.  Maybe not.  But if someone didn't realize that they were ethically compromised by reporting on the White House when their wife worked for it?  That's not anyone I need to listen to for a film review filled with righteous indignation. 
In Third's "Can't do their jobs, so they blame a film," we took on Senators Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin and John McCain for their idiotic letter to the head of Sony trying to alter Bigelow's film.  As we noted:
First, the complaints they lodge are that the film distorts things that happened. 
If that's true, that's the fault of the Senators who have allowed programs to take place in secrecy.  If they fear the American people do not know what happened and might be 'swayed' by a film, that goes to the secrecy level that they Congress has allowed the CIA to operate in.
So in other words, Dianne, Carl and John are complaining about the fact that they didn't do their own jobs.  That's on them.
Second, they insist, "The use of torture should be banished from serious public discourse for these reasons alone, but more importantly, because it is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, because it is an affront to America's national honor, and because it is wrong."  If, indeed, they feel that way, they need to (a) hold hearings into the torture that took place (public hearings) and (b) demand the Justice Department prosecute cases of torture carried out by people working for the US government.
In other words, Dianne, Carl and John's real problems stem from the fact that they haven't done their jobs.
And let's move beyond that.  Dianne was Chair in 2007 (after the 2006 mid-terms).  She has an obligation and responsibility in that role: If she knows of torture or any other law breaking, she is tasked with reporting it.  It appears Dianne did the exact opposite.  John McCain claims that watching Kathryn's film made him sick.  Good.  Because he was in the Senate looking the other way while the actual torture took place.  I'm glad it made him sick.  And while he and Dianne may find it easier to hiss and scratch at Kathryn and her film, the fact remains that they're just trying to distract from the reality that the US government tortured people -- as they admit in their full letter -- and they did nothing to punish the law breakers.  They did nothing.
And now they want to show up and hiss about some film?  They need to take accountability for their own actions.  What's becoming very clear about Kathryn's film is that it's a Rorschach test.  And people bring to it what they've done.  So if you didn't do your job as a senator, for example, the movie's going to upset you and make you issue a lot of stupid statements that people may pick up on and notice go to the fact that you didn't and haven't done your job.  In England, there's a call for a public inquiry into torture.  In the US, where's that call?  Dianne?  John?  Barack?
And for those who think the US government only tortured under Bully Boy Bush or that Barack stopped extraordinary renditions, they might want to look into the story of Mahdi Hashi.  Then again, life is so much easier when you can just hiss and spit at a movie and let the government and all the officials off.  Peter Van Buren notes at Al Jazeera:
The president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has made it clear that no further investigations or inquiries will be made into America's decade of torture. His Justice Department failed to prosecute a single torturer or any of those who helped cover up evidence of the torture practices. But it did deliver a jail sentence to one ex-CIA officer who refused to be trained to torture and was among the first at the CIA to publicly admit that the torture programme was real.
At what passes for trials at our prison camp in Guantanamo, Cuba, disclosure of the details of torture is forbidden, effectively preventing anyone from learning anything about what the CIA did with its victims. We are encouraged to do what's best for America and, as Barack Obama put it, "look forward, not backward", with the same zeal as, after 9/11, we were encouraged to save America by going shopping.
In the essay, Peter does a walk through on a point that's so obvious it's easy to forget that not everyone realizes it.  Torture isn't about the broken finger or bleeding cut or about gaining information.  Torture is about the memory.  Those who, for example, survived the concentration camps, still carried the scar of torture.  John McCain was sickend by Kathryn's film because he carries what was done to him (but apparently was fine with it being done to others until forced to actually witness it in Kathryn's film).   We're not using terms like 'spouse abuse' or 'domestic abuse' here or at Third.  If you've missed it, we call it what it is: Torture.   It's meant to scare and scar.  It's not about the moment of violence, it's about what will follow.   Jennifer K. Karbury wrote a very detailed examination entitled Truth, Torture and the American Way: The History and Consequences of U.S. Involvement in Torture
In Iraq, the US government ordered torture and the reasons weren't for 'information.'  What happened at Abu Ghraib wasn't for information.  It was to break people, to humilitate them, to destroy them with the intent of sending them back into the community filled with shame and knowing that photos of their torture could surface at any time.  It's terrorism.  Terrorism was practiced in Iraqi prisons before the start of the 2003 Iraq War, but the US government ensured that their Iraqi proxies would be trained on how to use torture.  It's effects are still felt (and practiced) in Iraq today.  The BRussells Tribunal's Dirk Adriaensens (Global Research) reports:
Kitabat reports on 18 December. The chairman of the Iraqi List, Hamid al-Mutlaq, said in a press conference in Baghdad on 18 December: " Iraqi prosecutors have submitted today a report to the Chairman of the Iraqi judiciary Medhat al-Mahmoud that confirms the occurrence of torture and violations and rape of women detained in Iraqi prisons. The report
is based on confidential testimonies of female prisoners in Iraqi jails."
Mutlaq said that "the report confirms what has been recently stated by some parliamentary committees and human rights organizations, that there is a systematic violation, torture and rape of female prisoners in Iraqi prisons,"
The Chairperson of the Committee on Women presented a report on the situation of women prisoners. This report confirms that prisoners are routinely subjected to torture and rape. The presentation led to a heated argument between the deputies of the Iraqi List and the Coalition of State of Law, evolving into a serious affray.
Mutlaq demanded that the Iraqi government and the judiciary system would "do their legal duties by issuing a death sentence against those who commit such crimes against Iraqi women and take the necessary measures to prevent these abuses. He also asked to protect the confidential informant and to implement Article IV of the Anti-terrorism Act.
The announcement of the Public Prosecutor to the Iraqi Judicial Council coincides with the statement of the Governor of Nineveh  Ethel Nujaifi, on Tuesday, about an officer in the Second Division of the Iraqi army who raped a 17 year old minor after forcing her into the Headquarter of his Regiment in the Nimrod's District.
The prison abuse is not going away.  Yesterday protests took place in Falluja and Ramadi.  Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) explains that in Falluja they also demanded the release of prisoners.   Kitabat goes further and reports that yesterday's Falluja protest found people protesting what's taking place in Iraqi prisons and detention centers -- the abuse of women.


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